The Rev. Dr. Christopher J. Benek
"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
Technology is quickly changing the world that we live in and the way that we do most things. This is also the case for the church universal. As a matter of fact, in the next fifty years (maybe much sooner) Virtual Reality (VR) technology is going to radically change what it means to “attend church.”
Facebook’s recent two billion dollar acquisition of the virtual reality firm Oculus VR should cue the prophets of the modern world to start proclaiming the writing on the wall. VR is coming quickly and, once it is here, existence as we know it will never be the same. And that new reality is surely going to have a significant impact on the church universal.
VR is, in the not to distant future, going to offer a fully immersive environment where people spend most of their time each day. This is because VR will have all of the features of our current reality plus many more. We will be able to choose from engaging in any number of exponentially growing environments as modified versions of ourselves. We will experience each other in that virtual space just like we perceive we experience each other now. That may sound pretty Sci-Fi presently, but so did Internet technology to the average person fifty years ago.
For the church universal this will certainly mean drastic changes in the way that we do things. With VR, many churches won’t need physical space and many will opt into beginning virtual worship experiences. The church in VR will literally become a church without walls. You won’t need to drive anywhere. Just plug the family in, download your Sunday outfit, and materialize in worship.
Yes, just like now, church programs (in this case advanced software programs) will occur as well. You’ll fly (yes, you can fly in VR) over to your prayer circle. Your kids will take unimaginable trips with their youth group. Everyone in the choir and praise band will sing in perfect pitch. The artistic imagery in your gathering space will change whimsically and will be fantastic. Pair all of this with advancing artificial intelligence and you just may hear the best sermon you’ve ever heard from your cyborg pastor. In many ways, things will seem much better than they do now.
But, in other ways, the mission of the church will still be the same. It will still be our goal to love God and to love our neighbor. We will still be called to care for the poor, and the infirmed and to grant aid to those in need. We will still be charged with living intentionally relational lives. Particularly, with all of our new technology and creative abilities, the necessity to practice humility and charity will continue to be distinctive characteristics of what it means to faithfully follow Jesus.
So, if you are considering whether or not you should attend church this Sunday it might be worth your while to ponder the virtues that you are presently forming each week in your local congregation. Moreover it may be worth considering the value that such virtues hold for the lives of you and your family. For, in this reality or the next, we are all training for the future. And as new realities rapidly evolve it will certainly behoove us to prepare ourselves to see and appreciate the awe, beauty and splendor of how God is ever amidst our vastly changing world.